This Badass CrossFit Queen Explains How to Do Push-Ups Like a Champion

Christmas Abbott can whip your ass any day. Here’s how she got that way.

Christmas Abbott is in way better shape than you are. We don’t know that for sure, but considering she lifts weights at the national level and regularly owns her rivals at  CrossFit competitions, we’d say that her 5-foot 3-inch frame of mostly muscle could out-lift your ass any day. 

But she didn’t start out that way. “My parents were like biker hippies and [at first] I was really just a product of that environment,” Abbott told Maxim over the phone. That environment contributed to Abbott picking up a smoking habit as early as 9 and using and abusing “all of the drugs you can think of.”

“[My parents] didn’t embrace a healthy lifestyle,” she said. For this First Lady of NASCAR, that changed once she joined her mother as a civilian contractor helping out with Operation Iraqi freedom at the beginning of 2003. A near-death experience during a mortar attack on her camp forced Abbott to open her eyes. “I actually ran my first mile [after that] and it almost killed me,” she said. “I was hobbling around for a week.”

From there, the fitness instructor has done a a complete 180, opening a gym in 2010 and competing in CrossFit competitions. In 2010 and 2011,  she made it to the CrossFit Games, and in 2012 and 2013 her team placed in top 5 at regionals.

These days, she’s still competing (three CrossFit competitions coming up before January and two  of the largest weightlifting competitions on the national) and sharing it all with fans via Viber‘s recently launched Public Chats. “I have all these little nuggets of great information that I’m just hoping to share on that platform,” she said.

To take advantage of that knowledge, we chatted Abbott up about one  of the most basic excercises: the push-up. Needless to say, she had a thing or two to school us on.

The Most Important Thing: Build your baselines

“Create your base, create your foundation, don’t bite off more than you can chew. That means if you need to scale in order to be able to execute it properly and consistently, then that’s what I want you to do,” Abbott said.  “From there, you’re going to build your baseline strength and you’ll be able to push through the harder ones and more varied push-ups a lot better without having an opportunity for injury.”

Vary It Up: An old-fashioned push-up is great, but try some other methods

“Just try vary it up,” Abbott said. “You don’t have to have a perfect push-up in order to be able to do a back focused push-up or the other styles like the clapping or the explosive jump. You can scale those and illicit a good response without having a perfect push-up. Change the style and scale it down to your ability.”

Her Two Preferred Push-Up Styles: Abbott swears by the scoop and explosive push-ups:

The scoop push-up: “I love it because it works your entire freaking body not only strength wise but flexibility wise,” Abbott said. “It will give you a strong back, shoulders, arms and legs, and you’re getting that nice flexibility in the shoulders and  hamstrings.

To try: Start in typical push-up position. Lower shoulders and keep hips level. Push back until arms are straight. Reverse movement.

The explosive push-up: “You can do this on your knees or even just pop your hands off the ground instead of clapping,” Abbott advised. “Basically this gives you a lot for your money. This won’t be a high volume one, you want to stay in the 5-8 range so you can really explode every time, do something else and come back to it. You really want to maintain the power.”

To try: While doing a regular push-up, “explode” into the air as you come up and  either hover or clap your hands.

For The Over Achiever: “I love ring push-ups they are nasty hard,” Abbott said. “You lower the gymnastic rings to about an inch off the ground and do push-ups on the ring. It annihilates not only your shoulders but your core and your back.”